When OnePlus showed up on the scene a year and a half ago, they came up with their “Never Settle” slogan. Shortly thereafter, people began settling on their products.
At the time, the OnePlus One meant an end to carrier dominance in the United States. For the first time, you could grab a flagship phone with the flagshipiest of flagship specs for just $349 ($299 for the 16 GB model, which is very rare and invitations were few and far between). Sure, there were some marketing disasters but that only gave them more publicity.
Their infamous invite system was a strike of pure genius. After all, when you have to work to get a phone, it’s something that you’re going to tell your friends about and be enthusiastic about. It was ingenious for creating word of mouth advertising.
Then it all went wrong.
We all thought that OnePlus was going to change the smart phone market for the better. As it turns out, they just might change it for the worse.
It started with the big lie. I’ll admit, I believed it. OnePlus was very successful in convincing us that $350 was all that anyone should charge for a flagship. Samsung, Apple, HTC, LG, Sony, and all of the other OEMs are the big, evil corporations that only care about pulling the money out of your wallet. OnePlus is the superhero that is going to save you from those companies, as well as the carriers because they just want to give you a great phone at a great price.
OnePlus did a really great job convincing users that Apple, Samsung, HTC, and LG are there to hurt you while OnePlus is there to help you, that OnePlus is the good guy in a world of bad guys.
It wasn’t true. The phone was buggy, teaching users the very hard lesson that great specs don’t necessarily make a great phone. But they’re a startup, right? The first generation model is bound to have a few flaws.
But what happens if you have one of these flaws? Well, you have to contact customer service. There is no phone number to call. There is no live chat. There is only a web form you can fill out where OnePlus will get back to you in about two weeks.
Once they finally get back to you, you exchange emails about once a day. Often, those emails are redundant, asking you a question that they’ve already asked you.
I posted the transcript from my RMA with OnePlus customer support. I can tell you that from the feedback I received that this was not unique to me. After I proved my case, they ignored me. Well, they ignored me until I posted the transcript from my RMA.
So let’s look at how they make that $350 price tag on a phone where other companies have to sell it for $600. They have no customer service staff, no technical support, and they don’t replace defective units.
So Let’s Get to the Point, huh?
OK, OK. I’ll get to the point. I have seen this strategy from Chinese companies quite a few times before. They provide a phone with great specs for a really low price and the warranty covers almost nothing. For the things that the warranty does cover, it’s almost impossible to get it replaced.
There will always be that foolish percentage of the population that thinks that great specs equal a great phone. There’s always going to be people that think they know everything about a phone because they looked at the spec sheet and read a review with some benchmarks.
These are the same people that don’t know anything about specs. They’re the ones that think the quad core 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 is better than the 1.4 GHz dual core A8 because they only know how to count cores and GHz. They’re the ones that think 1440p is better than 1080p because the Galaxy S6’s and Note 4’s displays look so great, since they don’t know anything about color accuracy and white balance. They’re the ones that think that a smart phone camera can be judged by the specs, even if they’re not only going on megapixels.
I see it all the time. When OnePlus announced that the OnePlus 2 would be powered by a Snapdragon 810, commenters asked why they didn’t use a Snapdragon 820. It’s like they want another processor to be released too early to where it’s flawed.
But people, mainly Android fans, can’t help it. They want specs. They want a 2K display, which has one advantage (VR) and a plethora of disadvantages. They want a 20 MP camera. They want a 5,000 mAh battery. One more thing, they want it all for dirt cheap.
This Strategy Could Come to America
It’s not out of the question that this strategy might come to the United States. Generally, it relies on whether OnePlus succeeds or fails. Personally, I think they’ll succeed since every time I talk to another spec-whore I lose a little bit of faith in the intelligence of smart phone consumers.
It’s the ultimate battle between intelligence and stupidity. If the general smart phone consuming populace is intelligent, OnePlus will fail. If not, OnePlus will succeed.
If they do succeed, that means that they’re a credible threat to the American model. That’s great, in a way. It means that we no longer will be controlled by carriers. They won’t be able to charge the ridiculous prices that they charge for phones.
On the other hand, it would mean that Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, and Motorola would all have to drop their prices. This means that they’d have to make cuts. This means that you can expect a serious drop in support.
We live in a place where, if our phone breaks, we expect to be able to bring it into the Apple Store, where they either fix it or replace it. The same goes for any Android phone and a Best Buy.
There are a lot of variables here, a lot of ifs and maybes; however, a worst case scenario is entirely possible. All we can do is make sure we’re smart consumers.